HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dwight Howard and other big men around the NBA haven’t been shy about approaching Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon for tutoring in recent summers.
We haven’t heard much about the point guards finding a Hall of Famer to serve in a similar capacity, until now. And that’s one of the reasons why I have no problem with the Washington Wizards putting their faith in John Wall (to the tune of the reported five-year, $80 million extension he signed last week).
Wall plans on learning from one of the best in Hall of Famer Gary Payton, according to J. Michael of CSN Washington:
Wall still plans to hook up with Gary Payton, a Hall of Fame point guard who was one of the best of his generation, in Seattle before returning to train with the Wizards on Aug. 20. Plus, he had ample time to watch the nuances of Tony Parker as he led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA finals and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, who helped his team advance to the Western Conference finals.
“Footwork also, just like catching the ball and working on pivots and stuff,” Wall said about what he has done this off-season in addition to refining jump shot. “Floaters. Watched a lot of Tony Parker throughout the playoffs and I see how Mike Conley added to his game after I went to two of his playoff series.”
Wall also is going to lobby coach Randy Wittman to allow him to do something else.
“Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to post up this year,” he said.
That’s where Payton, who also stood 6-4 and could be too physical for opposing point guards, could help most. Like Wall, he wasn’t the best jump shooter to start his career but became a solid one. By his fourth season, Payton shot better than 50% from the field. He only was a career 31.7% shooter from three.
If Wall’s career is on a similar trajectory to Payton’s at the same stage, the confidence Wall and the Wizards are showing in each other right now won’t seem nearly as far-fetched as it sounds to some.
“My main thing as a person, I’m not a follower. I like to be a leader,” Wall said during his news conference last week. “I feel like I would have had the opportunity to go anywhere. I feel like I’d be a follower trying to build a legacy somewhere else. I feel like I’m a person who gives my word and my commitment to where I started and that’s where I’d like to finish.
“We haven’t been to the promised land of winning a championship for years. I know we’re a long way from there, but that’s my main goal before my career is done, to win one here.”
Again, those are ambitious words from a youngster who has never been an All-Star or even been to the playoffs. But the fact that Wall is going down this path, in theory and in practice, bodes well for the Wizards and their fans.
Lots of guys talk about being leaders, of doing things the right way. Wall is doing his best to live it, to embody the leadership traits that an elder like Payton did when he became one of the game’s all-time greats.